ALUTIIQ MUSEUM  215 Mission Road, Kodiak, Alaska 99615   |  844-425-8844  |  view calendar > | search >

Aapit - Alphabet

An alphabet is a system of characters (letters) used to represent the sounds in a language. By seeing a character, a reader can reproduce a sound without hearing it.  There are different kinds of alphabets. English speakers use the Latin alphabet, a phonemic alphabet that represents sounds with twenty-six letters written with characters from A to Z. This same alphabet has been used to represent the sounds of many other languages, including a number of Native American languages with no traditional written language. Apache, Cheyenne, Kwakiutl, Navaho, Seminole, Sioux, Tlingit, Yup’ik, and Alutiiq all use the Latin alphabet as a base.


Kodiak Alutiiq Alphabet Poster, produced by the Alutiiq Museum.

The first true Alutiiq alphabet used Russian Cyrillic letters to represent Alutiiq sounds. This writing system persisted in religious writings well into the 20th Century in some villages, although it was no longer actively taught after the sale of Alaska to the United States.

Linguists modeled the modern Alutiiq alphabet after the Yup'ik alphabet, which was developed by Moravian missionaries from a Greenlandic system. Like English, the Alutiiq alphabet uses twenty-six letters designed to be typed on any key board.  Some of the Alutiiq letters sound the same as English ones, but others have their own unique sounds.  It is important to see the Alutiiq alphabet as its own set of sounds. To read Alutiiq, you must stop trying to sound it out in English!
The Alutiiq alphabet runs from A to Y and includes just four vowels: a,i, u, and e. There is no o in Alutiiq. In addition to some familiar consonants, the Alutiiq alphabet includes some consonants formed by two or more characters, such kw, hng, gw, and ll. Some English consonants that do NOT exist in Alutiiq include d, j, v, and z.

Read the Alutiiq letters and examples below while listening to the sound file.

Sounds of Alutiiq

Letter Example English Translation
 A a Alagnaq  Berry (specific. salmonberry)
 C c Cuuteq Ear
 E e  Emaa  Grandmother
 F f  FanaRuq/FaRanaq Lantern (Russian)
 G g  Giinaruaq  Mask
 Gw gw  Uqgwik  Alder
 Hm hm  Keghmarluku  To bite it repeatedly
 Hn hn  Arhnaq  Sea Otter
 Hng hng Kuinghnguarluni To kind of walk, to walk for fun
 I i  Iqalluk  Salmon
 K k  Keneq  Fire
 Kw kw  Kwegluku  To lift it up (S. Kodiak sub-dialect)
 L l  Laagaq  Kamchatka Lily (Chocolate lily)
 Ll ll  Llurluni  Slide Down
 M m  Mingq’lluni  To Sew
 N n  Nanwaq  Lake
 Ng ng  Angayuk  Buddy, Pal, Partner
 P p  Patuq  lid 
 Q q  Qik’rtaq  Island (specifically Kodiak Island)
 R r  Ruuwaq  Arrow
 R R   Wiit’Ruuq  Pail
 S s  Saqul’aq  Duck
 T t  Tamuuq  Dried Fish
 U u  Ulukaq  Ulu
 W w  Wiinaq  Sea Lion
 Y y  Yaamat  Rocks, Stones